Wednesday, October 9, 2013

MLM Mythbusting: "If I can succeed you can too" is a double myth

One of the most persistent myths in MLM is "If I can succeed you can too", usually spoken by a relatively higher-ranked guy in the MLM. However, this is a VERY MISLEADING statement. The word "can" here is an equivocation.  The IMPLICATION here is a very high percentage (100%?) of people who do the MLM as hard as he does will succeed. The reality is the actual people who succeed like the speaker is only a few percentage of total.

Let's analyze this in two parts... The question of "succeed", then the fallacy of "you can too".

What is definition of "success" in MLM? 

What exactly is "success" in MLM? It's usually to make a comfortable living. Since MLM often claim to be replacing the conventional job and so on... Let's define it as... earn more than US median personal income, how's that?

So what's the US median personal income? According to Wikipedia, that's about 32K as of 2005.  (see graph to right)

So how many people in, say Vemma, makes more than 32K a year?

Good question. They don't know. In fact, NONE of the "mainstream" MLMs know exactly how much money their brand partner / affiliate / consultant / distributor / whatever makes. All the company know is how much commission the company had paid out. (And this is actually bad for the company, as there's no proof of "retail" activity, but they don't really care)

Let's just look at what data's available, okay? So, what's Vemma's stats?

Here's actual income disclosure statement from Vemma for 2012. Go search for it yourself: Vemma income disclosure 2012.

I admit I originally cut this just to illustrate the top two ranks, but as you can see, it shows very clearly at the bottom that 1.02% of all earners make 34309 a YEAR, which is JUST above the US median income.

Here I re-emphasize the fact that this is ONLY the commission payment. There *could* be some retail profit (in my opinion, rather unlikely when you're selling $5 8.4 oz energy drinks when you can find 8.4oz Red Bull for $1.50 each at Walmart)  but there are also a ton of expenses that were never counted either.

And I assure you, most MLMs have very similar distribution... most reps earn a few thousand a year. a few percent on top earn the big paychecks. You can search "income disclosure statement 2012" for your own MLM, and read it yourself.

Back to Vemma: 1% of people in Vemma "succeed" by our very modest definition: beat the US median income. It's not going to change that much whether we count the retail profit or not, esp. when there is no proof of any retail profit. That's not "If I can succeed you can too"

The reality is "I am the 1%, and 1% of you can succeed like me".

What's really sad is sometimes, the speaker isn't even in the 1%. When they repeat the mantra, what they really meant was "I want to be the 1%, and if you join my chances improve as I need 99 people under me".

That's not success.

The fallacy of "you can too"

The original statement "If I can succeed you can too" contains one additional myth... "you can" here clearly doesn't mean any one, as we've explained above, even if you all do what you can. But here's another angle, best illustrated with a theoretical statement:
President Barack Obama (or any other US President) states: If I can be president (and you're born in the US like me), you can too. 
(NOTE: any "Birther" comments will be nuked as it's NOT relevant! You've been warned!)

Is that true? Absolutely true, but there's one thing that wasn't mentioned: There is only ONE president. And there's 313 million people in the US (as of 2013). That's pretty bad odds.

Thus, "if I can succeed in MLM_____ you can to" is a myth. The reality is much worse. Yes, you have the SAME CHANCE as everybody else... a VERY LOW chance. 

While the odds are not quite as bad in MLM, it's not good either. Most MLMs show that vast majority (70 to 80%) makes only a few thousand in commission a year (not counting their own retail profit or their expenses). And we had already explained the stats above... Roughly 1% of all Vemma reps "succeed" even by our VERY modest definition.

MLM Success is mostly a myth.

Those who did not succeed are hit with victim shaming. Which we will discuss in future article.
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